Job openings dipped in November, the latest evidence that employers remain cautious about adding new workers.
Employers advertised 3.25 million jobs that month, a drop of about 80,000 from October, the Labor Department said Tuesday.
Openings have risen by 900,000, or 39 percent, since the recession ended in June 2009. But they are still below the 4.4 million openings that were advertised in December 2007, when the recession began.
The report shows that there were 4.6 unemployed workers, on average, competing for each available job. That's slightly worse than the previous month's 4.5 ratio.
The heavy competition for available jobs puts employers in the drivers' seat and helps hold down wages.
The ratio reached 6.3 in November 2009, the highest since the department began tracking job openings in December 2000. In a healthy economy, the ratio would fall to between 1.5 and 2, economists say.
The department's report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS, counts the number of jobs advertised on the last business day of the month. While the figures are for November, economists say the report provides an early indication of hiring patterns because it can take up to three months to fill many jobs.
The figures come after the department issued a disappointing employment report Friday stating that employers added only 103,000 jobs in December. Some economists had forecast that twice that number would be added. The unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent from 9.8 percent, though about half that drop was due to people giving up on job searches.